Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Birthday

     This is a reprint of a post from last October. Today would have been Jennifer's 42nd birthday.  Happy Birthday, Sweet Sister.

     Hello, my sister. It’s been one year since I said goodbye to you for the last time. I still miss you every day. I miss you so badly it hurts. Don’t get me wrong; the pain has gotten better over the last three hundred sixty-five days. At first it even hurt to breathe. The simple acts of inhaling and exhaling rubbed against the raw wound that tore open somewhere inside me as I watched you labor for your last breaths. I hated it. I hated it! I HATED IT!! I hated watching you die. But there was no way I was going to let you spend your last moments alone. I was greedy for every precious second with you. As I realized you weren’t going to take another breath, my heart shattered. Its slivers impaled every organ and muscle even as I was swamped with waves of relief because your suffering had come to an end. For days afterward my jaws ached with the effort of holding back the agonized screams that were viciously trying to batter their way out of me. But I held it together until the control became second nature.

      Most of the time breathing doesn’t hurt now; only when I am with someone who is missing you. Maybe I’ve gone round the bend, but when I’m alone you’re always somewhere inside my head. So I don’t miss you quite as much. You’re always with me in a way. Sometimes, though, I want your physical presence with a desperation that borders on panic. That’s when I realize the terrible wound inside me is still there, even if the edges have calloused over; that’s when breathing becomes agony and the tears cannot be held back. 

      The night you died, I wondered, as I wonder sometimes now, how I am supposed to deal with everything without you. You were the one who knew everybody. You were the one who liked organizing people and parties. You were the one with the boundless energy and good cheer. At first it felt like everyone was looking to me to be those things in your absence. Fortunately, everybody figured out pretty quick that those things are not me. I don’t feel so pressured now to keep the happy chatter going and keep the troops entertained. I still try, but I don’t beat myself up so much when I cannot maintain the pace you set.

      The family still gets together on a regular basis. Not every week any more, but once a month or so. I think we all learned how important it is to make memories while we can. And, I think it has become a little easier for all of us to bear you absence when we are together. The first couple of times I didn’t think we were going to make it through, but we held on by our fingernails and managed. Each time has gotten a little easier. And, while you are always a part of our gatherings, I no longer expect you to bop into the room, sprawl on the couch and dominate the conversation. It’s become normal for you not to be there in person. In a way that makes me sad. But I also think that is progress and something to be proud of. We are adjusting to our new reality without you.

Boy, reality sucks.

Love you, Baby Sister.

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